Eight weeks into the pandemic, data shows COVID-19 has induced a staggering increase in online shopping, especially for groceries.
Last month governments around the world instituted measures to combat the coronavirus pandemic, such as shuttering non-essential businesses, quarantining recent travellers and urging people to social distance. However, with a few weeks of data now available, this has not only drastically altered public life but it has resulted in a drastic shift in shopping behaviors.
In a nationwide survey of 1,427 Americans, more than seven out of 10 shoppers say they’ve increased their online purchases by up to 40 per cent since the start of February when COVID-19 began to emerge. Not to be outdone, the remaining respondents say they’ve actually increased their online shopping by more than 40 per cent.
Not to be overlooked was a fifth of every purchase in the last two months including Health & Beauty products, such as medication, supplements and vitamins, to stay healthy during the coronavirus outbreak. Rounding out the top three types of purchases were Home Entertainment products (15%), which includes televisions, soundbars and streaming devices. This suggests shoppers were preparing for long hours of Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Video instead of opting for a new book or yoga mat.
Meanwhile, despite its diverse inventory of products, data shows Costco is not a preferred vendor for many online shoppers. In fact, 59 per cent of respondents said they’ve done less than 10 per cent of their shopping on Costco.com since the start of February. Costco does have a warehouse pick-up option for its members, however only 10 product categories are included with half of those being jewelry. Even though the coronavirus has exercised a massive shift towards online shopping, the big-box retailer has yet to increase its assortment of products available for pick-up although there are reports suggesting foot traffic has skyrocketed for Costco warehouse locations.
Like Costco, Walmart saw plenty of in-store shoppers hoarding items such as toilet paper and hand sanitizer before social distancing took hold. But its success has continued digitally as the second-most popular online retailer behind Amazon in the past eight weeks.
That’s a significant development considering Walmart’s site traffic was 1.21B visitors in Q4, 2019, which is roughly one-sixth that of Amazon which had 7.2B visitors during that same time, according to SimilarWeb.com. Since 24 per cent of respondents said they did more than half of their spending at Walmart.com, that could indicate that the company picked up a number of first-time shoppers to its site, especially with its chief rival being out of stock on a number of hot products like toilet paper.
For Target, the good news is that half of the Americans surveyed did at least 10 per cent of their shopping since the start of February through its e-commerce platform. However, just as many respondents (50%) did little to no shopping at all in that same timeframe, which is well behind Amazon (10%) and Walmart (39%) in that same measurement. Target has continued to make improvements to its online shopping experience, most notably its Drive Up program. It allows customers to visit local stores and receive orders without ever having to get out of their vehicle, which is ideal during this public health crisis.
Businesses will have to continue to find innovative ways to provide safe and positive customer experiences as the pandemic rages on. And do so with a focus on servicing shoppers digitally.
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